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What is OTT Advertising? Over-the-Top Ads Explained

Forget searching multiple FAQs and sifting through multiple Google search results - this is your compendium of all things OTT

What is OTT Advertising? Over-the-Top Ads Explained

12 Min Read

OTT, CTV, AVOD and SVOD… what do these all mean? Put your ad tech dictionary away. Whether or not you want to solidify your understanding, get a better grip on the media buying terminology, or have a massive case of FOMO – we’ve got you.

In this article about OTT advertising, we’ll cover the basic definition of OTT, the benefits of OTT ads, as well as how to get started and begin tracking results for this superior marketing channel. Towards the end, we’ll even cover some of our absolute favorite OTT examples. Let’s get started!

What is OTT Advertising?

What does OTT stand for in advertising? OTT stands for “over-the-top,” and refers to access to TV content using an internet connection instead of traditional cable or satellite. Therefore, OTT advertising is the act of marketing to this internet-connected audience as they stream content.

This content isn’t limited to TV only, but on any device that runs on an internet connection:

  • Mobile
  • Desktop
  • Tablet
  • Laptop
OTT Advertising

OTT content is at its most optimum – from a branding and performance perspective – when viewed on TV in the comfort of your living room, but more about that later.

What Is the Difference Between OTT and CTV?

These terms are often used interchangeably in the industry and can refer to the same thing. But the main difference is, OTT streams content across all devices such as mobile and desktop, whereas Connected TV serves to TV screens.

For a more in-depth comparison of OTT and Connected TV, check out the blog post below.

How Does OTT Marketing Work?

OTT advertising, when served on television screens, works like any other direct response channel – except with the immersive experience unique only to television.

We delve into this further in the section below, but OTT advertising platforms like MNTN Performance TV (that serves exclusively on TV screens and not other devices) let brands set up audience targeting, measure who is viewing an advertisement, and then view how this stacks up against their other digital marketing efforts.

It also works cross-device, meaning that the platform tracks users visiting your brand’s website after viewing OTT ads and serves relevant ads on web and mobile along their journey until they finally convert on your website.

MNTN Performance TV offers superior reporting capabilities which track ad-side metrics like ad completion and website visits, as well as the popular measures of ROI including ROAS, CPV, and conversion rate. These benchmarks are a critical component for measuring the success of your OTT campaign.

What Are the Benefits of OTT Advertising?

OTT advertising is a game-changer when run exclusively on TV screens, as it is a performance channel in every meaning of the word. It bridges the gap from being a pure branding exercise (on Linear TV) to one that can also be measured and tracked.

Some of these marketing platforms pride themselves on their data-driven approach, while others claim to be at the forefront of precision targeting. MNTN addresses all of the concerns a performance marketer may have, packaged in a single user interface.

The primary benefits of OTT advertising include the following.

1. Raises the Bar for Creative and Content Delivery

Three words: Living Room Quality (LRQ).

We acknowledge that OTT isn’t only limited to TV, but across other internet-connected devices as well. However, LRQ serves ads exclusively on TV devices as we know that this device is superior to other devices in terms of ad experience. If you’re working with an ad platform that serves OTT ads across other devices, you’re missing out on the true benefits of this ad channel.

Inventory that isn’t served on TV screens isn’t true OTT advertising, and when marketers spend their budget on it they’re not getting their money’s worth. MNTN Living Room Quality serves 15 or 30-second non-skippable ads to deliver a premium ad experience.

OTT Advertising Platforms

2. Brand Safe, Fraud Free, and Top Tier Inventory

Serving any advertisement on low-quality inventory dilutes the impact of even the most compelling of advertisements – and is a huge waste of marketing dollars. A sweeping majority of advertisers agree that this is a huge concern of any brand, too:

OTT Advertising Trends

We’ve selected only premium TV networks that we know are aligned to your brand, and your audience and specifically hand-picked to drive performance. These are 125+ reliable networks that we’ve all grown to know and love, like CNN, CNBC, Food Network, and more.

3. Targeting and Tracking

Where over-the-top advertising shines is in its reporting and targeting capabilities.

MNTN Performance TV partners with the leading data provider, the Oracle Data Cloud, giving advertisers access to over 40,000 third-party audience segments. You can also use first-party data from your own website visitors and reach them with retargeting ads on their other devices and OTT.

View the reports and analytics for these as they happen in real-time on our reporting dashboard – better yet, see how these perform in relation to your other digital marketing efforts through our integration with Google Analytics to get a holistic view of your campaign.

These are some of the (many) metrics OTT advertising platforms like MNTN can track:

  • How many people viewed your advertisement?
  • How many viewers visited your website after viewing your advertisement? 
  • Which OTT device is driving more view-through conversions?
  • What does a typical user journey look like from the top of the funnel through to the bottom of the funnel – across OTT, other OTT-supported devices, and my other digital marketing channels in this campaign? 

These performance metrics and KPIs can all be viewed on our reporting interface, and in any permutation to show those metrics that matter most to your brand.

Is OTT Advertising Effective?

We created an entire content series dedicated to this very topic, comparing the effectiveness of OTT advertising to well-known players in the programmatic space like YouTube, Demand Side Platforms (DSP), Linear TV, Display-Only, and Video Ads.

Apart from the inventory, tracking, measurement, and overall experience benefits – attribution is a priority for performance marketers and they should be wary of how this is measured on other OTT ad platforms

OTT Marketing

A legitimate performance marketing channel should be as transparent as possible, and MNTN Performance TV addresses this need through its accurate attribution capabilities via its proprietary Cross-Device Verified Visits feature.

Cross-Device Verified Visits is our proprietary technology that measures any user visits to your site following the guaranteed in-view display of your ads, in a window of time defined by you. That means you’ll know when someone views your OTT ad to completion, and what device they use to convert. And since it only takes credit if the original ad was viewed to completion, it ensures it was your ad that initially prompted the sales journey.

What Types of Results Can I Expect from OTT Advertising?

We don’t call ourselves a performance marketing platform for nothing. We’ve run the numbers across the board and are proud to report some solid averages. Note that OTT campaign results vary and may be impacted by budget, type of industry, and time of year.

  • 3x ROAS
  • $6 Cost Per Site Visit
  • $0.03 Cost Per Completed View
  • 1.82% Site Visit Rate

Can You Share Some Success Stories?

Sure! Here are a couple of case studies that we’d like to highlight:

  • 48% higher ROAS with MNTN Performance TV Retargeting: We partnered with a leading home supply retailer to level up their retargeting efforts. They had originally only used display-retargeting, but this time served related ads across web and mobile to recent site visitors—as well as to viewers who had seen their Performance TV ad. The combination of multiple platforms of devices drove site visits more efficiently than display-retargeting and outperformed not only on ROAS but on Cost Per Visit and Conversions.
  • 20% higher revenue versus one of our top competitors: Some friendly rivalry never goes astray, especially when we come up on top. A luxury e-commerce retailer approached us for some support with their retargeting efforts, and we did a head-to-head test with one of our competitors to see which one performed better. We drove 20% higher revenue at comparable spend levels, drove 6x longer average session durations, and a 680% higher e-commerce conversion rate – in fact, the retailer had to end the test two weeks early as we generated results much faster than anticipated.
  • 50% lower CPA with MNTN Performance TV Retargeting: A leading non-profit education institution has been an ongoing customer of ours, and usually relied on our retargeting solutions to drive enrollments and student applications. However, they wanted a new way of getting in front of a wider audience pool, so added on our MNTN Multi-Touch feature to ensure their ads were top of mind. This happened to be their best performing campaign since launch and drove the lowest CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) compared to their display-only retargeting campaigns, and cut their total average CPA by 50% across all their retargeting efforts.

Are OTT Ads Vertical Specific?

Nope, OTT marketing is entirely vertical agnostic and benefits many categories. We have worked with global movie studios looking to drive brand awareness for their latest releases, through to retailers and F&B (food and beverage) brands. Any brand with a website or online presence to drive traffic is a suitable candidate.

Nowadays, the majority of consumers (48%) go ‘straight to the source’ and buy direct from brands. This, combined with the fact that 75% of households now own an OTT device, is a compelling case for OTT advertising.

These consumers are digital natives at heart and are used to consuming information (and purchasing) cross-device, which is one of the reasons why so many advertisers show interest in it as a marketing channel.

Read up on some of the Case Studies on our site to learn more about how our customers have found great success with Connected TV advertising.

How Do You Advertise on OTT?

As long as you have your ads created within the right specifications, then you’re ready to launch your OTT campaign in four simple steps: 

  1. Upload your ad creative
  2. Set your targeting parameters
  3. Make your campaign memorable through related ads across your other devices to keep your brand’s message top of mind
  4. Choose your budget, campaign goals, and launch date

What Types of OTT Campaigns Can You Run?

Pick your poison – prospecting or retargeting? Whichever OTT campaign strategy you choose, MNTN Performance TV offers a solution for both:

  • Performance TV Retargeting: Use your own first-party CRM data to retarget users who are interested in the brand by serving them OTT ads on the big screen.
  • Extend your retargeting with MNTN Multi-Touch: The ad experience doesn’t just end with an OTT ad – this is only the beginning! Once this ad is served, our technology then tracks the other devices (including desktop and mobile) and serves related ads to them to continue to engage and immerse the viewer with your brand.
  • MNTN Multi-Touch as a prospecting play: Our Multi-Touch feature is flexible to your needs, and not only works for retargeting efforts but also for attracting potential new customers. Tap into over 70,000+ third-party audience segments through our partnership with leading data provider Oracle Data Cloud, to narrow or widen your targeting efforts.

How Do I Buy OTT Ads?

OTT ads can be bought in two ways:

  1. Direct-buy through a publisher: Otherwise known as “walled gardens”, which are closed eco-systems (such as Amazon Prime Video), which control their own operations and are priced as a set fee.
  2. Programmatic buys: These are real-time bids across a network of OTT advertising inventory and are usually priced lower than a direct buy. For example, when you set up a campaign with MNTN Performance TV, the software will automatically place these bids on your behalf across our network of 125+ premium publishers, but also ‘choose’ these based on your targeting parameters to efficiently spend your ad dollars and drive value.

If you’re looking for a combination of flexibility and value without having to sacrifice (or worry about) where your content will end up, programmatic media buying is a wise choice.

What Is the Cost of OTT Advertising?

Streaming TV advertising on OTT platforms is a great way to reach an audience migrating away from traditional linear television in a more cost-effective manner. Traditional TV advertising requires a large upfront commitment which significantly limits the number of businesses participating.

On the other hand, OTT ads can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, giving users the freedom to spread out ad dollars across multiple campaigns seeking different outcomes.

In addition, your dollars will go much farther on OTT, compared to cable TV advertising, when it comes to reaching specific audiences. With targeting options and conversion tracking that go far beyond the simplicity of linear, it’s easy to see why performance marketers are shifting their ad spend to Connected TV.

OTT Advertising Examples

There are plenty of great examples of OTT ads that companies use for demand generation and lead generation campaigns. Take a look at a few of our favorites!


The first OTT example is from MNTN and features our Chief Creative Officer, Ryan Reynolds. Yeah, we’re a little biased, but that’s because we use our own OTT advertising platform to promote our business—because it works. Check it out!


Rumpl decided to give OTT advertising a whirl with this fantastic commercial pitching their super fashionable and super warm blanket created from recycled materials. It’s a great advertisement that immediately pulls you in and speaks directly to the soul of the adventure-bound traveler.


A+ for the creativity on this one. As soon as you hear Sarah McLachlan’s voice, you instantly think of the traditional somber ASPCA ads she’s usually featured in. Only this time, it’s a complete misdirect as she’s actually pitching Bolt, a one-click checkout solution to reduce the number of abandoned carts for eCommerce businesses. The OTT creative is both hilarious and very memorable!


For lovers of fancy and elegant dining table decor, Replacements is for you. This OTT example sticks to a tried and true formula of explaining a common problem, providing a solution, pitching the value proposition, and doing so in under 30 seconds. Short and sweet, just how viewers like it.


What the heck, let’s do another example with Ryan Reynolds. You have to admit, he’s a pretty fun guy. This OTT ad features 1Password, an advanced cybersecurity password manager to keep all your digital data safe. It’s another funny and memorable video creative that gets right to the point.

OTT Advertising Platforms: Final Thoughts

As you can imagine, we’ve only scratched the surface here, and our team is ready to answer any further questions you may have about OTT marketing and the benefits of OTT advertising platforms like MNTN Performance TV.

If there’s something you’d like to clarify further, or if there are any challenges you’re facing in your current digital campaign strategy, we’re here to help. Start by signing up for our CTV/OTT report below!